Annie Vernon: ‘That silver medal was devastating – like a broken heart’ | Donald McRae


Desperate to win, terrified of defeat – the Olympic silver medallist tells of dealing with this profound challenge for elite athletes

Out of heartache, sometimes, clarity can emerge. For Annie Vernon – a former Olympic and world champion rower who is now the author of Mind Games, a fascinating book about the psychology of elite sport – it took a decade to find this gleaming new path. Vernon was 25 in August 2008 when she rowed for Great Britain in the quad sculls at the Beijing Olympics. She won a silver medal which scarred her so deeply that, even now, she finds it difficult to discuss.

“I’m quite a private person,” Vernon says as she explains why the most painful moment of her career compelled her to eventually confront the complex mental tests that are the bedrock of professional sport. At the same time she chose not to write in detail about it. “I guess the defining feature of my career was that silver medal. It was absolutely devastating – like a broken heart. I thought I either tackle it in a big way or leave it as a footnote. I made it a footnote because it would have taken over the book.”

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Written by Donald McRae
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